While protecting their parks is an important part of the job for most park rangers, keeping visitors to their parks safe is equally vital. In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited national park, protecting nature lovers can be a complicated task.
Part of the problem is that many park visitors do not consider all of the possible dangers when visiting a park. Animal attacks, cliff falls, and water rescues are all possible risks for park visitors, but many are too focused on the beauty of the nature around them to consider how it could harm them.
Park rangers practice constantly to make sure they are prepared in case of an emergency. Earlier this month, the parks Technical Search and Rescue Team practiced rappelling from a cliff as a part of preparing for a possible rescue.
“As we all know, practice makes perfect. If you don’t do things, you lose those skills,” said ranger Phil Basak. The rangers get plenty of practice, both in drills and during the over 100 calls they receive every year. While most calls are only minor injuries like sprained legs and broken down cars, rangers still have to be prepared for the worst.
With winter approaching, even those minor calls can be catastrophic. Hypothermia can be extremely dangerous, and rangers encourage visitors to be prepared with appropriate gear and supplies.
The most important thing park visitors can do to help rangers, besides being prepared, is to keep the rangers informed about where they will be. It will be that much more difficult if rangers do not know where to start searching for you in the case of an emergency.
Rangers also advise park visitors to stay on the trails and be wary of the weather. Storm’s can come quickly, and feet of snow can accumulate in an instant. Snow can make rescues extremely difficult if someone has hiked their way into an area that is already difficult to reach in good conditions.
However, rangers are prepared for any situation. Guest should still endeavor to be as responsible for their safety as possible, but in the event of an emergency, they should know that skilled rangers are looking out for them and working around the clock to ensure they return home safely.